Here at the Case House, we’re pretty sophisticated home users, as you might imagine. Even if you ignore me, for a moment, there are my two daughters. Elizabeth (now at UCLA) and Emily (who is a sophomore in high school) are both tech savvy users. Elizabeth is best thought of as a power user, particularly when it comes to cell phones and laptops. She’s also a gifted digital photographer and expert Photoshop user (as it applies to photography.)

Emily is more of a power Internet user and gamer. Facebook is always open on her system, as is iTunes. She users her iPod Classic as much for games as for music, and she’s been known to boot up some pretty serious PC games – Titan Quest, Neverwinter Nights 2 and others.

My wife, on the other hand, will tell you she’s not particularly tech savvy. In one sense, she’s right. I had to set up Harmony One universal remote or she would have never figured out the home theater. She still looks to me for basic hardware support, like setting up her work laptop for dual displays whenever she disconnects and reconnects the laptop. In other ways, though, she’s a sophisticated user of tech, building web pages for her company, initiating and managing teleconferencing sites and designing corporate training curricula.

On top of that, we’re all multi-PC users. Elizabeth has both a full featured laptop and netbook. Emily can be found using the communal living room laptop for homework, sometimes more so than the desktop PC in her room.

As for me – I want access to media, music, benchmarking apps, game patches and other useful software from any location in the house. Keeping my PC on 24/7 really isn’t the right answer: network storage is.

What Do You Mean “Network Storage?”

The situation with network storage isn’t as simple as it should be. There exist a spectrum of choices, depending on what you actually need:

  • Small, single drive systems that attach to your network and simply become another hard drive to your PC, albeit slower.

  • Network attached storage (NAS) devices that offer additional flexibility, including automated backups, USB printer access through the network and some degree of user account control.

  • Media savvy NAS boxes that build on basic NAS capability, then add plugin capability. For example, the ReadyNAS from Netgear offers the ability to run a Slimserver plugin, letting you access digital music stored on the server with Logitech SqueezeBox digital media adapters.

  • Interesting convergence devices that are both NAS boxes and media servers, like the Mediagate line of hardware, or Western Digital’s WD TV.

  • PC based servers. These can range from consumer oriented Windows Home Servers to full on multicore hardware running Windows Server 2003 or one of the many Linux
    distros.

  • The final solution is cloud storage – something that’s still new to a lot of home users, and exists in multiple implementations and at varying cost structures.

In an ideal world, you’d assess your needs and pick the network storage technology that suits your needs. In the Case House, most of our network storage needs have been ably handled by one of the original ReadyNAS 600 systems, built and sold by Infrant prior to its acquisition by Netgear. The system originally shipped with 1TB of storage (four 250GB drives), set up in RAID 5 mode.

After several years, the oddball paddlewheel cooling fan began to die, so I replaced both the fan and PSU, while simultaneously upgrading the hard drives to four 500GB drives (2TB total, about 1.6TB usable in RAID 5.) The ReadyNAS has since been working fine, humming quietly in the basement lab storage area, giving me no problems and doing its job.

So naturally, I wanted something different.

The X Factor
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  • shin0bi272 - Thursday, December 10, 2009 - link

    that looks pretty sweet. I sort of did something similar when I recently upgraded to an I7 cpu. I took my core2duo guts out of my game box and put them in a oneof case that I modded as a tribute to 9/11 (Im from NY so it hit me pretty hard personally). For years I had nothing to put in the box but considered doing a file server out of it because it was this huge micron tower from the mid 90's (seriously its like 3ft tall wtf?) that used to have a dual p133 mobo in it. I put a raid5 card in it with an enclosure similar to yours only mine holds 5 disks not 2. Im currently running 3x1tb wd ent. drives in it and have 2tb of usable storage with redundancy (and an LTO2 tape drive in another computer that I can back up that server remotely with) and the capability to add another drive.

    The one thing I am concerned about though will be upgrading to 2 or 4tb drives later but that will be a while Im only half full now.
    Reply
  • larsv - Saturday, December 05, 2009 - link

    Correction to the article text - the 4-bay Chenbro case ES34069 is same physical size as the case used in the article.

    To make room for the two extra bays the ES34069 case uses an external PSU. My setup runs an Atom 330 MB, four WD Green drives, and a separate 2.5" boot drive. Power draw at wall socket at idle (drives spun down) is 35W, fully active 46W.

    Re WHS: Part of the attraction of WHS, for me, is that my data isn't dependent on specific hardware. If my processor burns to a crisp I can still take each drive and pull the data I need off it using any computer fluent in NTFS. As a contrast, when my ReadyNAS packed up I had to get a new ReadyNAS just to get the data off it. Never will I be that dependent on proprietary hardware again.
    Reply
  • Inglix - Sunday, December 06, 2009 - link

    I run a very similar build with:
    200w Chenbro 4 bay case (the "psu" isn't as efficient as I'd like)
    Intel DQ45EK mITX (more efficient than the G45 mITX board, and has management tools)
    e8400 (cheapest VT wolfdale at the time, an e3200 would do now)
    2x2gb 1.8v (I wish these were still $15 after rebate)
    60gb Vertex 2k8 r2 boot drive (hey, it was $126 after rebates)
    4 WD20EADS pass through for WHS hyper-v
    Antec 200mm fan (mounted on the side for extra cooling)
    e-sata to sata adapter for the 5th port

    I like having a smallish domain server with plenty of space to store WHS & Acronis backups. For cost reasons though I'd still recommend a HP WHS system over a Chenbro build, unless you need alternate OS support.
    Reply
  • Zurichtx - Wednesday, December 09, 2009 - link

    Inglix
    I like the idea of the SSD drive as an os drive. That extra 2.5 bay in the 4 drive chenbro case it seems like the perfect spot. How has the setup worked out for you? I am considering a simliar rig.
    Reply
  • Glaucus - Friday, December 04, 2009 - link

    Any word on what the total power consumption is on such a rig? I'm trying to put together a system that will use as little power as possible and looking for ideas. Reply
  • beady - Friday, December 04, 2009 - link

    though 2TB isn't the best price point atm, 1.5TB is, or the 2TB greens, but if you manage to fill 4TBs of data you really should look at RAID 5/6 unless you have backups, but not many have backups of backups, but normal failure is only 2%/year or so.
    but its a good beginner article anyways, not as tech savy as most of anandtech people are but most people don't see the benefits of a nas, its mostly for convenience sake, but setting it up is inconvenient and takes a long time, there are too many options and you have to look all over the web for the different hardware/software configurations and guides almost always from 10-20+ different websites for setting up everything. Simply because there are 100's of different ways to set up home networks for all different things.

    here's a link to my HTPC resource;far from complete
    http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AtfZAEbM0x...">http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=...CUVBDejE...

    anyways, everyones needs are different, NAS's are generally expensive and not easy to set up and takes awhile regardless of what or how. IMO if you don't have TB's to share then don't bother, its easier to run Tversity on a normal PC or something.
    Reply
  • yacoub - Friday, December 04, 2009 - link

    At first I thought "The Case House" was some new e-tailer website that specialized in computer cases. Then he started naming family members and I figured it out. ;P Reply
  • valnar - Friday, December 04, 2009 - link

    So after all that, what is the power consumption? Reply
  • rrinker - Thursday, December 03, 2009 - link

    I too built my own, using a low power dual-core Athlon CPU and an integrated video motherboard with 6 SATA ports. I used a small but still ATX case so I'd have enough drive bays, so while my system isn't tiny, it's not a monster, either. It sits under my desk and hums away storing my files, videos, music, and photos, while also backing up my two desktops, one of which runs Win7 64bit. Right now it has 3x 750GB drives (which were the sweet spot in price when I built it - 1TB was 2x the cost for that extra 250GB), and 2x 1TB drives I bought when the prices on those dropped. I don't think my total system cost was as much as this build - AMD has it all over Intel when it comes to low cost low power system - and I have over 4TB of space.
    WHS is better than most NAS boxes or using RAID for the average home user, it's not overkill. Drobo uses a similar disk data protection scheme - but a Drobo loaded with drives with the ethernet adapter actually cost more thanmy system, and it doesn't do the backup.
    As for the HP extras - Twonky is pointless if you stream to a media pc or, in my case, a Popcorn Hour that actually handles pretty much any format you can throw at it. Other media player devices seem very limited especially in terms of what formats they support, requiring an add-on like Twonky or tVersity to convert formats on the fly.
    Reply
  • nafhan - Thursday, December 03, 2009 - link

    To all the people complaining about prices of build it yourself vs. buying a prebuilt system: remember to be flexible! You can save a lot of money by:

    1. Reusing parts you already have (like Loyd did).
    2. Being flexible on which components you use (you could save $40 - $80 on the case if you don't need hotswappable bays).
    3. Waiting for deals, sales come up all time (I bought a 640GB WD drive for $38 a few months ago).

    Loyd's price list is a good reference/starting point, but straight retail prices should be viewed as the most you would pay for any of those things. DIY is great for those who are willing to do research to find the best components at the best prices, and not so well for those who aren't.
    Reply

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